Preparing for Worship – Jeff Brummel.
We followers of Jesus sing. Singing together, whether in a choir or as a congregation, is a unique activity steeped in tradition throughout history and across many cultures.
We have lovely choirs that adorn our worship service. But we also have the greatest choir there is — you. Congregational singing permeates the accounts of historical worship found in the Bible. We’ve been encouraged to sing together with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
In the early 1800s, Lowell Mason, the father of American music education, created singing schools to bolster community song. Also, from early American church music sprung the tradition of shaped-note singing, in which people sat in four sections of soprano, alto, tenor and bass to sing hymns, first using solfège (do, re, mi, etc.) to learn the notes, and then with the text.
The history is plentiful and interesting, but why do we sing? For David, music was a balm to the soul as he played his harp to sooth Saul. We know that when Jesus finished his last meal, the gathered disciples sang “the hymn” and went out. The word “the” is interesting, as the definite article suggests some form of liturgical practice in this particular moment of communal worship.
In today’s call to worship, the text expresses exactly why we sing: “When we lift our song, it is indeed time for amazing wonders. We feel God’s holy presence as we sing.” I feel the most important word here is “we,” for as we gather in worship there is a great mysterious transformation from you and me to we. As we sing this mystic harmony, we together form the body of Christ, and indeed there are amazing wonders to behold.
I feel music represents the Holy Spirit in our worship services. True, the tune and text may be hundreds of years old and steeped in rich history, but when we sing, it is always new. The sound is always now, in the moment, never to be heard again.
How incredible it is when we sing together and experience the Spirit of God moving among us. And this is only possible when two or more are gathered to sing. Now, as we worship together: “Lord of all to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”